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Addressing sexual assault and harassment at higher education institutions : UNM Newsroom

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UNM and U.S. Dept. of Navy co-host conference

The University of New Mexico hosted community, military and academic leaders from across North America for a Discussion on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at America’s Colleges, Universities and Service Academies. The regional conference, only the second to be held in the country, was co-hosted by the Department of the Navy.

Nearly 300 people registered to attend, with almost 200 more watching the livestream online. Eighteen U.S. states and Ontario, Canada were represented, along with members of the Pentagon, Department of National Defence in Ottawa and Vice Chief of Defence staff.

UNM President Garnett S. Stokes and Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly gave the opening remarks – encouraging attendees to exchange ideas and collaborate on ways to drive down incidence of sexual assault and sexual harassment at the nation’s colleges and universities.

“We are grateful that the Navy has linked arms with UNM to create a place where we can all share best practices, share our experiences, and synchronize our data in the name of our shared goal: the reduction – and, ideally, prevention – of sexual misconduct and violence,” President Stokes said. “This room is filled with some of our best minds and smartest leaders, I am looking forward to spending the day listening to, and learning from, all of you.”

Modly urged the audience to look “below the horizon” and find young people who will continue sustaining the efforts started by groups like those gathered.

“We heard today about how victims are still very reticent to come forward because they don’t feel it’s safe or they feel ashamed,” said Modly. “We have to reinforce to everybody that you have to saddle up to people like that – regardless to the risks to yourself, to your career, to how you’ll be perceived by your peers. You have to saddle up to people who are hurting because you never know what precious cargo is inside that person that’s going to survive and change the world.”

Elizabeth L. Hillman, president of Mills College, gave the keynote address titled ‘Promise and Peril.’ During the 45 minute talk, she discussed a 2018 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on Sexual Harassment of Women. Through surveys, experiments, interviews, case studies and qualitative analysis, the report looked at nearly four decades of research on sexual harassment. It found between 20 percent and 50 percent of female students and more than 50 percent of female faculty and staff experienced sexually harassing behavior while in academia. According to Hillman, other key findings included:

  • Current climate permits extensive sexual harassment
  • That climate undermines research integrity, reduces the talent pool 
  • Legal compliance has not reduced harassment
  • Changing climate and culture can reduce, deter and address harassment

Following the release of the report, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, along with institutions of higher education across the country and including UNM, committed to an Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education. The aim of the action collaborative is to raise awareness about sexual harassment, while sharing evidence-based policies and strategies for reducing and preventing it. The action collaborative is also working to gather research results from across institutions and develop a standard for measuring progress toward reducing and preventing sexual harassment on college and university campuses. 

UNM was approached about co-hosting the regional conference after attending the national summit at the United States Naval Academy last April, held by the Department of the Navy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office. The next national conference is taking place in April 2020 at West Point

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Saskatoon businesswoman Heather Abbey won $21,500 US on Wheel of Fortune. Now people want her to pay her debts

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Heather Abbey, a controversial Indigenous entrepreneur from Saskatoon, appeared on a Halloween-themed episode of Wheel of Fortune Tuesday night and walked away with $21,500 US after solving a puzzle with the phrase, “The Horror, The Horror.”

Indigenous artists who watched the game show say the real horror is that Abbey still owes them thousands of dollars for a failed trade mission to Tokyo in July 2019, on top of the $62,000 of public money she owes Creative Saskatchewan, a provincial arts agency.

Abbey said she is making monthly instalment payments on her debt to Creative Saskatchewan. The arts agency confirmed that to CBC News.

But it’s little consolation to the artists who say they’re owed money. 

“It kind of drains me emotionally to see her doing things like [appearing on Wheel of Fortune] still with no remorse for the artists and entrepreneurs she used and harmed,” said Cree fashion designer Agnes Woodward, who lives in North Dakota, but is originally from Kawacatoose First Nation, about 115 kilometres north of Regina.

To take part in the trade mission, Woodward and her husband Whirlwind Bull, a painter, spent more than $6,000 on flights, hotel, food, transportation and a delegate fee of $400 each. The trip did not go as Abbey promised it would. Afterward Abbey sent the couple messages — provided to CBC News — in which she pledged to repay them $3,000.

“If you owe a lot of money to people and you’re on national TV? Like, she has no remorse and no conscience,” said Bull. 

Agnes Woodward and her husband, Whirlwind Bull, said they spent more than $6,000 on flights, hotels, food, transportation and a delegate fee of $400 each to go on a trade mission to Japan. They said they had no idea that trip organizer Heather Abbey received a substantial grant from the province of Saskatchewan for the trip. (Submitted by Agnes Woodward)

Bull said they paid $1,300 to cover hotel rooms, only to have Abbey check the Canadian delegation into a $20/night Airbnb at the last minute. CBC confirmed that a hotel in Tokyo is trying to collect $15,000 in cancellation and no-show fees after Abbey confirmed the group’s reservation just hours before arrival, but failed to show up.

Bull said he made a joke of Abbey’s appearance on the game show. ” ‘Oh good, now she’s going to pay us back.’ But I know she’s not going to.” 

Abbey was prepared for backlash

Abbey, a Cree woman from Little Pine First Nation, located 200 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon, has won numerous awards and government grants for empowering Indigenous artists and for her much-lauded website Indig Inc., an e-commerce platform that allows Indigenous artists to sell their homemade products. It is now offline.

She now lives in West Hollywood, Calif., studies at Los Angeles Film School and delivers food part-time.

“I’m passionate about creating authentic Native American content for the big screen and the small screen,” she told Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak on the show.

In an article posted to West Hollywood Times, Abbey said she was hoping to win enough money to help pay for her education and take her family on a trip to Paris. 

WATCH | Heather Abbey’s Wheel of Fortune win:

Saskatoon entrepreneur Heather Abbey won $21,500 on Wheel of Fortune. In January she promised to repay Creative Saskatchewan $62,000 in grant money. 0:16

However, in an email to CBC News, Abbey said that when she receives her winnings, she will spend the money in three ways: repaying Indigenous delegates that weren’t able to attend the Tokyo trip, repaying Creative Saskatchewan and buying a new bed set for each of her two children.

“I knew that everything would flare up again if I made it on the game show, but I also knew it was an incredibly long shot in the first place — from application to audition to being selected onto the show to the actual game show itself!” she wrote.

“All in all though, I’m pretty proud of how I played, and that I have actual money coming to make my payments — delivering food isn’t exactly keeping me in the money!”

Government audit

After a CBC News investigation last year, Creative Saskatchewan decided to audit five projects undertaken by Abbey and her e-commerce company Indig Inc., that received more than $160,000 total in taxpayer money between 2015 and 2019. 

The audit concluded that Abbey met expectations for three grants — worth nearly $100,000 combined — that helped to fund, among other things, website design and training for Indigenous artists to create leather mittens and beaded earrings.

The two failed projects included a trade mission to Japan for Indigenous artists from Saskatchewan and a retail space for Indigenous artists in a Saskatoon shopping mall.

“I plan to repay every debt I have,” Abbey told CBC News in January, when asked about her outstanding debts.

Abbey also said none of her actions were malicious or fraudulent, rather that some business gambles didn’t pan out.

Abbey, who recently won big on Wheel of Fortune, said she made rookie mistakes when she organized a trade mission to Tokyo for Indigenous artists. (ABC TV)

Creative Saskatchewan spokesperson Craig Lederhouse said the arts agency has an agreement with Abbey to collect the money owed over time.

“To date, Ms. Abbey is honouring that agreement and has been making monthly payments,” he said. “Financial details of the agreement are confidential.”

Abbey has outstanding debts with more entities than the Saskatchewan government. Public records and court documents show two credit unions and two landlords are seeking $64,000 from Abbey for unpaid loans and rent.

Abbey told CBC in January that she plans to repay all her outstanding debts. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

Abbey still maintains that some of the delegates are also responsible for the lack of sales on the Tokyo trip, insisting they treated it like a “vacation.” A half dozen artists interviewed by CBC News deny that.

As for her life now, Abbey said, “after the storm comes the rainbow. Cliché, but true.”

“Last year I was cancelled, and in retrospect it was probably the best thing to ever happen to me,” she said. “Aside from these payments that I still plan to make, I’m free.

“So yeah, did last year destroy me? Hell yeah it did, but it also rebuilt me into someone that is stronger, and has even more empathy and life experience. Trying to better the world for a few people broke me completely, but it also gave way to being truly happy.”

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Premier Ford speaks as Ontario confirms 834 new COVID-19 cases

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Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to hold a news conference beginning at 1:30 p.m. at Queen’s Park. Ford’s office says he will be joined by several members of cabinet, including the ministers of municipal affairs and housing, long-term care, education and infrastructure. 

You can watch it live in this story.


Ontario reported another 834 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, driving the seven-day average up to a new high while the number of tests being processed stayed well below capacity for a third day. 

Consistent with recent months, most of the newly confirmed cases in today’s report were found in four public health units:

  • Toronto: 299
  • Peel Region: 186
  • York Region: 121
  • Ottawa: 76

The seven-day average of new daily cases, a measure that helps limit noise in the data to provide a clearer picture of longer-term trends, rose to 886. That’s the highest the average has been at any point in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ontario’s labs processed just 30,010 tests for the novel coronavirus, despite capacity for around 45,000 daily. 

The relatively low number of tests means there was, roughly, a 2.8 per cent positivity rate, down from yesterday’s record high of about 3.45 per cent but still above the threshold for serious concern (2.5 per cent), according to Ontario’s own public health standards.

More positively, however, after several consecutive days of a markedly lower number of samples being collected for processing, some 41,000 were taken since the last provincial update. That suggests that the level of tests being processed could potentially rebound by tomorrow. 

Meanwhile, the number of people in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 stayed steady at 312. Those being treated in intensive care dropped by four down to 71, and the number of patients on ventilators fell slightly to 51.

Five more COVID-19-linked deaths were added to the province’s toll, which now stands at 3,108.

Ontario has now seen 72,885 confirmed cases of the illness since the first was reported on January 25. About 85 per cent of all cases were resolved.

There are currently 7,474 confirmed, active infections of the novel coronavirus provincewide, a new record high.

(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found in the Ministry of Health’s daily update, which includes data from up until 4 p.m. the previous day. The number of cases for any particular region on a given day may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, which often avoid lag times found in the provincial system.)

Ontario’s labs processed just over 30,000 tests, still well below the total capacity of about 45,000 daily. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

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CBU to honour Donald Marshall Jr. with new research centre

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A new research institute planned for Cape Breton University will honour the legacy of Donald Marshall Jr., who fought for the Indigenous right to fish for a moderate livelihood.

The Mi’kmaw man’s name has been invoked in recent weeks by Indigenous fishermen in southwest Nova Scotia who have launched self-regulated lobster fisheries. 

“I think it’s very timely in terms of the need for knowledge sharing, for advocacy and for action,” said Janice Tulk, a senior researcher in the university’s development department. 

The idea for the institute has been in the works for a couple of years, sparked by one of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which emphasized the need for education about Indigenous law and Indigenous rights.

Donald Marshall Jr. addresses a crowd in Sydney, N.S., after leading a peaceful protest over Indigenous fishing rights, on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2000. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

“We started thinking about what could we do at Cape Breton University that would respond to that call,” said Tulk, whose areas of expertise include Mi’kmaw history and culture, as well as Indigenous economic reconciliation.

Tulk said the university has partnered with Cape Breton’s Mi’kmaw communities over the past 40 years to provide higher education in a variety of fields, with the creation of Mi’kmaw studies programs, Mi’kmaw science programs and more recently, Indigenous business and mentorship programs. The university saw the research institute as a next opportunity, said Tulk.

‘I think it’s amazing’

Cape Breton University will work with members of the Marshall family over the coming months to solidify the vision for the institute.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Crystal Bernard, Donald Marshall Jr.’s daughter.

“We’re so humbled and honoured that they would do this for him, in his name. And I know he would be very proud, as well.”

The idea was made public Monday as the university unveiled plans for a proposed, $80-million Centre for Discovery and Innovation. The project has yet to receive funding, but should it go ahead, it will house the Marshall Institute.

“We need a space where community collaboration can occur,” said Tulk, noting the institute will proceed with or without the new building.

Janice Tulk’s expertise includes Mi’kmaw history and culture, as well as Indigenous tourism development and economic reconciliation. (cbu.ca)

That collaboration will involve university researchers, faculty members and students, as well as community members and organizations such as the Bras d’Or Lakes Collaborative Environmental Planning Initiative and the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources, as well as various levels of government.

“I think we’re going to have some really valuable conversations that will advance our understanding of environmental justice and Indigenous approaches to climate change, and hopefully start to make some progress on those things through those dialogues, through advocacy, through policy change,” said Tulk.

Asked what role the institute might play in situations such as the current unrest over the Indigenous moderate livelihood fishery in Nova Scotia, Tulk said it would serve to help educate people about treaties and Indigenous rights.

“I would imagine that there would be advocacy as well,” said Tulk. “Certainly the institute could play a role in bringing stakeholders together to have honest conversations and collaboratively come up with solutions.”

Bernard said she believes her father would be disappointed by the ongoing situation in southwest Nova Scotia.

“I think it would be very upsetting to him that we’re having to go through this again,” she said.

“On the other hand, I think he’d be on the front lines, fighting with our people, trying to get people to understand that the treaty rights are not up for debate.”

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